Wrestling Review: AEW Full Gear (2021)

The main event of All Elite Wrestling’s (AEW) Full Gear event has been a long time coming. Kenny Omega and Hangman Adam Page have been everything to each other in professional wrestling: friends, stable mates, tag team partners, longest reigning tag team champion, one-time opponents, professional rivals, and now bitter enemies. Kenny Omega’s AEW World Championship will be on the line, of course, but there is more than just a wrestling title on the line for Hangman Page, who has a new child to provide for, former friends to prove wrong and personal demons to exorcise. The AEW Women’s Championship is also on the line, as Dr Britt Baker, D.M.D. defends against the feisty judoka, Tay Conti. Baker has already written off Conti as nothing more than good looks, but Conti has the martial arts skills to surprise the champ and claim the gold. The Lucha Bros, Penta El Zero Miedo and Rey Fenix, will also be in action as they defend their AEW Tag Team Championships against Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler, FTR. FTR previously defeated the Lucha Bros for the AAA Tag Team titles, so they know exactly what it takes to win championship gold from the Lucha Bros.

Also on the show, Bryan Danielson and Miro will go to war in the finals of the World Title Eliminator Tournament. Miro essentially took the spot that Jon Moxley vacated for his personal reasons, and has only had one match, however difficult, against Orange Cassidy en route to this final. Danielson, meanwhile has had to go through both Dustin Rhodes and Eddie Kingston to get to the final match. No matter who wins this match, whoever wins the main event and claims the AEW World Championship is going to have a very dangerous challenger on their hands. It’s rare for the first match in a feud to come after a 15-year build up, but for Eddie Kingston and CM Punk that is exactly what is happening. Kingston claims that over a decade ago in an IWA Mid-South wrestling locker room, Punk berated a young Eddie Kingston for the way he looked – and Punk agrees. Punk, however, claims that it was out of respect, because he could see the potential in Eddie Kingston, but he needed to have a fire lit underneath him to bring it out. And the members of the Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Santana, Ortiz, Jake Hager and Sammy Guevara) will face The Men of the Year (Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page) alongside UFC veterans Junior Dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski, and American Top Team “member number one”, Dan Lambert, as they look to settle months of bad blood will come to what is sure to be a violent in in a Minneapolis Street Fight.

The show will also include Darby Allin meeting MJF in a first time contest; Cody Rhodes and PAC teaming up to face Andrade El Idolo and Malaki Black; and, Christian Cage and Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus) battling The Superkliq (Adam Cole and the Young Bucks, Matt and Nick Jackson) in a falls count anywhere 6-man tag team match. On the Buy-In pre-show, four of the remaining women in the TBS Championship tournament will battle in a tag team contest, as Nyla Rose and Jamie Hayter face Hikaru Shida and Thunder Rosa.

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+ Kenny Omega (c) (w/ Don Callis) vs Hangman Adam Page (AEW World Championship): this was good, but it never really kicked into that ‘big time match’ that I wanted it to. The Hangman story has been very well told, both on TV and in real-world stuff, and Omega has been in-story and in real life one of the best wrestlers in the world for years now. This truly could have gone either way, with one ending clearly preferred by the live crowd, but overall this was only the second best match on the show. Much like the Street Fight before it, there was really only one thing people wanted to see from this match, but whether it delivered or not is the real crux of the story
+ The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana & Ortiz) vs The Men of the Year (Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page) & American Top Team (Junior Dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski & Dan Lambert) (Minneapolis Street Fight): it’s hard to judge this one, for a few reasons. Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page were both great for their team, but they had to be because of who their partners were. JDS and Arlovski were real wildcards, but I think both proved themselves, and all of the Inner Circle guys were good in their own way. I don’t know what in particular changed with this match compared to the rest, but you could hear every behind-the-scenes play being called, especially by Jericho at several points. Still this only really needed one moment, and it delivered that and more
+ CM Punk vs Eddie Kingston: this match had the best story behind it, after only a small handful of phenomenal promos between these two legendary microphone wielders. The match was sloppy, ugly, and wild – which is exactly what it should have been, and exactly what made it great. From before the match even properly begun these two were going nuts, and if the goal was to have a short by violent affair, then these two succeeded in spades
+ Dr Britt Baker D.M.D. (c) vs Tay Conti (AEW Women’s Championship): this was the best match of Tay Conti’s life, and overall it was a positive, but I still think it went too long. Britt has been a good champion, but for my money has not yet had the big, breakout moment that she needs (which, ironically, she already got when she lost to Thunder Rosa). Conti will certainly make for a good champion, if the goal is to show what an inexperienced champion must learn and deal with
+ Cody Rhodes & PAC vs Malakai Black & Andrade El Idolo: this was fine, but it felt like ‘just another match’ on a show that frankly featured two other non-title tag matches, and this was the one at the bottom of that pecking order. PAC and Andrade are too good to be in these unimportant tag matches, and Black has an incredible following behind him at the moment. Cody, as we have come to expect, is the odd man out, doing his damnedest to get cheers but still being eviscerated by the live crowds (to an unfair degree, in my opinion). The action was mostly good, and overall I’d say it was a positive for the show, but I don’t really know why this wasn’t a TV main event instead
+ Darby Allin vs MJF: holy smokes this was an incredible match. MJF might be the best kept in-ring secret in wrestling, or at least he was until this match blew it wide open. Allin is probably the best underdog in wrestling at the moment, and the crowd was white hot for everything that happened, all the way up to a phenomenal ending sequence. Gosh, this was just incredible

Christian Cage & Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus) vs The Superkliq (Adam Cole, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) (Falls Count Anywhere Match): this was garbage, and I will hear no discussion of it. It went on significantly longer than it should have, especially considering that the Street Fight was still to come, and the number of false finishes absolutely ruined the momentum of the match, and the perceived effectiveness of the finishers in general. I hated this so much
Bryan Danielson vs Miro (World Title Eliminator Tournament Final): this was the match I was looking forward to most, and I have to say I was disappointed. After Bryan’s matches with Suzuki and then especially Kingston, I was expecting something similar to that, but this was a standard WWE style match (albeit better than it ever would have been there) and I really wanted more. Miro is something special in AEW right now, and every promo and match of his is must see, but this never felt that way
The Lucha Bros (Penta El Zero Miedo & Rey Fenix) (c) (w/ Alex Abrahantes) vs FTR (Dax Hardwood & Cash Wheeler) (w/ Tully Blanchard) (AEW Tag Team Championships): this was obviously competently worked, considering the four people in the match, but it really was two competing styles that often didn’t mesh. I prefer FTR doing old school, proper tag team matches, while the Lucha Bros are best when they can let loose and do the crazy stuff. The ending to this match was not just really bad, but it actively drained the energy from the crowd, and I’m not sure what they were thinking
Jamie Hayter & Nyla Rose (w/ Vickie Guerrero) vs Hikaru Shida & Thunder Rosa: this was the Buy-In show match, featuring four competitors still in the TBS Championship tournament… but it wasn’t very good. I never felt like any of the competitors were entirely on the same page, and stuff looked really sloppy, all the way until the ending that I personally did not care for at all
– generally speaking, I don’t mind JR on commentary, as both his actual voice, and his metaphorical voice lend a lot of credence to the stuff happening in the ring; he is a legend of pro wrestling, and should be treated as such. But he was not good on this show. He had a lot of flubbed lines and incorrect names of moves, wrestlers or the like, and it actively drew my attention away from the ring

> Today is the 16th anniversary of the death of Eddie Guerrero, so there were a lot of homages and references to Eddie on this show. These were used to get babyface cheers or bad guy boos as necessary, but only one of them really felt natural
> there was so much very audible swearing on this show, from the crowd, wrestlers, and even the commentary (the latter of which was limited to ‘shit’ and ‘ass’, but still). I don’t mind a bit of grime in my wrestling (see: my unending love for Lucha Underground) but these sorts of things are best used in moderation

Should you watch this event: This was a really disappointing show overall. The Allin/MJF opener was just so good that nothing could follow it, but I think AEW’s insistence on matches going longer than they have to was the real reason this stunk. Two overly-long garbage brawls was more than there needed to be, while the Omega/Hangman main event could really have used the extra time. I admit my hopes were sky high going in, but even then this never felt close.

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